IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Warns about Lack of Adequate Conditions to Hold Free and Fair Elections in Venezuela

May 18, 2018

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its profound concern over the lack of the minimum necessary conditions to hold free, fair and trustworthy elections in Venezuela. The IACHR urges the State to hold, in a reasonable and adequate timeframe, elections based on the full and effective exercise of human rights and democratic principles.

In recent years, the Commission has observed a profound and progressive deterioration of Venezuela’s democratic institutions. In its most recent report, Democratic Institutions, the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Venezuela, the IACHR concluded that “in Venezuela today the population's right to exercise its political rights has, de facto, been suspended.”

Elections scheduled with no regard for the law or for Venezuela’s Constitution

According to the information available, the election process was decreed by Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC, by its acronym in Spanish), based on faculties that are not suitable for a constituent body and ignoring traditional deadlines. The election calendar was clearly set with no impartiality or objectivity.

Indeed, on January 23, 2018, the ANC passed a Constituent Decree “of Actions for the Defense of Peace, Democracy, Sovereignty and Independence in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” On February 7, 2018, the National Electoral Council (CNE) convened those elections for April 22, 2018. On March 1, 2018, the ANC agreed to convene for May 2018 the election process for State Legislative Councils, and to reschedule the presidential election. The CNE complied with the ANC’s decisions and initially called the elections for April, but later postponed them until May 20, 2018.

Based on the events that were detailed above, the IACHR believes that the process to call elections in Venezuela does not meet international standards, that its timing has been unpredictable and arbitrary, that it does not reflect a consensus with opposition forces, and that it also fails to comply with the procedures held in Venezuela’s own Constitution.

An election body who cannot guarantee independence or impartiality

The international community generally acknowledges that an election body who can guarantee autonomy, independence and impartiality is necessary to ensure free elections. In that respect, the IACHR has repeatedly expressed its concern over the fact that Venezuela’s National Electoral Council is not an independent and impartial body who can guarantee an equal application of the country’s electoral law and protect the political rights of all Venezuelans.

The Venezuelan election body continues to be made up mostly of officials who have the government’s trust, and their decisions have shown evidence of being partial to the ruling party. In its reports and statements, the IACHR has mentioned situations such as the following: suspending the Presidential recall referendum process; laying hurdles to obstruct the participation of opposition political candidates and parties; putting off municipal and regional elections for a long time, and then rushing them outside the timeframe that is established by law; and serious recent allegations of unfair advantages and fraud in the election for the ANC of July 30, 2017 and in the regional election of October 15, 2017.

Hurdles to obstruct the free participation of political parties and candidates

The election convened for May 20 is set to take place in a scenario marked by the no-validation of opposition political parties, that are thus rendered powerless. Such no-validation, ordered by the ANC for reasons that are not established by law—such as only allowing the participation of parties that have not taken part in “immediately prior elections”—, has a profound and illegitimate impact on the democratic pluralism that needs to prevail in these processes.

Based on the information that the IACHR has received, following these no-validations, the Venezuelan political system now consists of 17 parties, 12 of which belong to the National Government’s political coalition while only five belong to the opposition. The Commission notes that there were a total of 67 political parties in the 2016 election process.

Several public officials who belong to the opposition and were likely candidates to stand for elected public office were also disqualified, in order to definitively prevent their political participation. These disqualifications have significantly reduced candidate participation in these and other elections, along with the Venezuelan people’s effective access to substantial options for the Presidency, such as had been announced by the opposition.

Further, according to the available information, the CNE granted insufficient time and set unreasonable requirements that prevented likely candidates from exercising their right to register for the election process and to take part in it.

Universal suffrage: exclusion of new voters and of Venezuelans who live abroad

The hurried call to elections and the handling of the election calendar, as detailed above, have also had a serious impact on universal suffrage guarantees and on access for new voters and for Venezuelans who live abroad.

According to the figures the IACHR has had access to,more than 800,000 new voters were included in the electoral registry, but at least 1.9 million young voters did not register to cast their ballots, given the short deadlines and the lack of resources and public information. Similarly, the election process allegedly did not facilitate the timely registration of the large number of Venezuelans who have been forced to leave the country as a result of human rights violations, violence and insecurity, persecution for their political views and the effects of the economic crisis.

Based on that, the Commission believes that the election process convened for May 20 currently lacks the minimum conditions necessary to hold free, fair and trustworthy elections in Venezuela, through an independent election system that guarantees the principle of universal suffrage and electoral plurality. The IACHR therefore urges the State to adopt the necessary measures to hold a different process of genuine elections that ensures an effective exercise of the right to free suffrage.

Finally, the Commission stresses its request for the State of Venezuela to authorize an observer visit, so the IACHR may be able to monitor within the country the serious human rights situation it faces.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 112/18